I am totally exhausted. I am so tired that I can barely type, so please excuse me if I’m writing utter carp.
Our extra pair of hands, in the shape of Andreas, has turned out to be The Sadistic Slave Driver From Hell. When he was born, they must have broken the mould – he is the antipathy of all things Spanish. He arrives at eight o´clock in the morning and starts work in top gear. He moves like a Tasmanian devil until ten o’clock when comes the time for desayuno (breakfast). This comprises half a barra de pan (stick of bread), which he devours in fifteen minutes flat and then immediately resumes his work in top gear. He breaks for lunch at two o’clock, pootling off on his scooter to eat at home. He then returns at three o’clock sharp and recommences work immediately, moving up a gear. He finishes at eight in the evening.
During this entire schedule I am frantically trying to clear up all the rubble that he is busy renewing behind me. Meanwhile, poor John cannot get his teeth into anything because Andreas is delivering a constant string of instructions – ” JOHN!! Agua! (water) … masa! (mortar) … ladrillos! (bricks) … luz! (power)” and so on and so on.
Don’t get me wrong. The man is a diamond – he’s worth every centimo we’re paying him and the progress is phenomenal. But I am truly shattered, and even John, who is a veritable dynamo in his own right, is showing signs of strain.
Strangely enough, though, I cannot dedicate myself to this timetable with quite the same level of tunnel vision with which the pair of them are blessed. Contrary to the widely-held misconceptions of many men, the automatic washing machine has not quite yet reached the point of automation of loading and unloading itself, pegging out the clean washing and then ironing it (regrettably). The standard dusting, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning the bathroom and so on is not something the dogs accept as part of their job specification. I have neither a personal shopper nor a chef. I therefore have to apportion some of my time to address these mundane but entirely necessary requisites.
Of course, since I am not seen to be labouring intensively with them shoulder to shoulder every second of the day, I am clearly available to be sent out on all the extracurricular errands too.
So yesterday I heard John’s dulcet tones ringing out above the sound of Andreas on the road drill.
“I’m just clearing all the debris from the floor so that you can move the scaffolding, and collecting together all the scattered tools so that you’ll be able to find them again … why?”
“We need more yeso moreno (instant-setting plaster) and some foam cartridges. Any chance?” he enquired, with absolutely no intention of hearing No! as an answer.
“OK”, I replied. “I need fuel first, though, and the car’s filthy. An hour be OK?”
Having ascertained that they didn’t actually need the stuff yesterday, I ran back to the house, gave myself a lightning cat-lick with a flannel to remove most of the smudges from my face, and dragged a brush through my hair to dislodge all the half-bricks. Then I abandoned my working shirt and shorts and dragged on a long cotton skirt (which hides a multitude of sins) and a vest.
I drove to the garage first as the car gasped its last on the few fumes in the tank. I filled up and paid, concurrently deciding to buy myself a rare treat of chocolate, since I was also running on empty. I then treated the car/mobile skip to a pressure wash.
The car wash bay, erected as it has been in line with the prevailing wind, manages to deliver as much water upon the bearer of the wand as it does on the vehicle itself, and so I ended up pretty soggy around the edges. Nonetheless, I jumped back into the car like the dedicated gopher I am, to drive from one side of town to the other to pick up the two items on my list.
I peeled open my bar of choccy as I drove. Breaking off a strip of three silky-smooth squares, I held them in my left hand on the steering wheel as I dropped the rest of the bar into my lap. The heat of the sun through the windscreen fell onto the strip, which melted almost instantly and drooped horribly, so before it could escape me entirely I shoved it into my mouth. Almost. About a quarter went into my mouth, a quarter smeared on my chin, and the other half liquified completely on my fingers.
So I’m busy steering with my right hand while trying to lick the fingers on my left hand to render them sufficiently clean to grasp the wheel again with them. At the same time, I’m trying to rescue the ghastly mess dribbling down my chin.
What else could go wrong? Well, let me tell you.
Some time ago, my dear fellow blogger Jack from Perking the Pansies wrote a post about Turkish traffic police and their campaign to clean up the appalling driving habits in Turkey – Clunk Click Every Trip. I commented at the time that we seem to be seeing a similar initiative here in Spain, although the ambivalence of attitude to various misdemeanours appears unbalanced, to say the least. I said, “We have an absurd situation here at the moment whereby the Spanish police are stopping to fine all extranjeros for driving (for example) in sandals without heel straps, or not having the dog belted into the back seat. During this operation a moped can be passing unsanctioned bearing two adults with a child sandwich between them, and a goat in the front basket. And none of them will be wearing helmets!!”
Back, then, to driving along one-handed while washing my face with chocolate. As I made my way past a road junction on the right, I noticed a police car drawing up, indicating left. As I passed the junction, I saw it change direction and pull out after me. Then, a quick flash of the lights and a short burst of the siren and they were pulling me over.
Fantastic. I look like the window-dressing scene from “Chocolat” juxtaposed onto Dick van Dyke in “Mary Poppins” after he’d spent some time moonlighting in “Carwash”, and I’m pulled over by the cops. Brilliant.
Two ‘cool dude’ policemen with designer sunshades sauntered up to my open window, but lost their aplomb somewhat upon setting eyes on the vision that was me. They both stepped back, obviously united in their opinion that a little distance from this soaked, dusty and confection-smeared creature wouldn’t go amiss, and asked me to leave the vehicle.
The more stoical of the two waved his hand at my rear windscreen wiper. “La limpiabrisa sobresale“, he remarked (the wiper is sticking out). Sure enough, I had forgotten to snap it back to the glass after my endeavours at the garage. Sheesh.
“While we’re here”, he added, “perhaps you’d let us see your footwear?”
Could it get any worse? I sheepishly drew up the hem of my long skirt to reveal my steel toecapped concrete-encrusted caterpillar boots which, they had to admit, did not fall into the category of the flip-flops they were hoping to discover.
I think they then made a mutual and tacit agreement to leave it there – I was clearly not reading from the same script as them – and they turned to leave, dismissing me with a final wave of the hand.
Just as I was stepping back into the car – that rather inelegant pose of having one arm and one leg in, one arm on the door and one leg on the floor – the less talkative of the two spoke to me again.
“Aren’t you the woman who was looking for a parrot at five o´clock in the morning a couple of years ago?” he asked.
“Errmm, no”, I averred. “That will have been my twin sister”.